Wednesday, May 04, 2005


My son knew I was home from work, and knew I was taking the bird to the vet. He phoned about 2:15 and pleaded with my to pick him up and take him along. "If you are going to put her down, I won't even have a chance to say goodbye". I couldn't argue with his logic, or his feelings.
He held the cage in his lap as the bird hung on the bars directly in front of his face chattering and whistling. It was a sight that both warmed and broke my heart.

We checked in at the front desk and were shown to an exam room a short time later. "How do they put her to sleep?" he queried. "By injection - and it's over pretty quickly". The damn was starting to break and the tears started flowing down my son's cheeks. I hugged him. He finally excused himself to the car because he just couldn't take the waiting anymore, and there was no way he would be capable of staying for the end.

The Dr. came in with a big smile and introduced herself. We discussed what was going on and then she examined the bird by holding her with a paper towel. Galileo was not pleased with the indignity and ran to my shoulder for protection from the big bad lady upon being released. She preened her ruffled feathers as the Doc and I discussed options.

Doc had very positive thoughts on our situation. She explained what she thought it was and how she would handle a surgery and what the outcome would most likely be. She explained things in medical terms I could understand without talking down to me or oversimplifying it. I liked this woman. She was direct and honest and answered all my questions about the riskiness of anesthesia and the prognosis for recovery. She excused herself to write up a cost estimate. I had already made the decision to go for the surgery. Surgery will greatly increase her quality of life, and if she lives her lifespan of ten years the cost is negligible since she is only a year and a half old. I thought of my poor son grieving in the car and got a flashback of an almost identical situation from many years ago.

I had grown up with a black lab mix named RivCor. I still remember the day my Dad brought him home. He was all teeth, puppy breath and belly at 8 weeks old. All black with white boots and a white tipped tail, he also had a white triangle on his chest and on top of his snout. He was a smart dog and learned all kinds of tricks that I taught him: sit, lay down, roll over, speak, play dead. He understood his command by voice or hand. He could balance a treat on his nose and stay perfectly still until given the command to snatch it. He had soulful brown eyes that spoke of his intelligence and understanding when he looked at you. He had a gentle nature. He didn't growl or bite me the day he got hit by a car and I had to drag him out of his carpeted whiskey barrel bed to assess the damage. He was frightened and shaking, he had a large open wound from the inside of his back leg all the way up to his belly. But he knew me, and he knew I wouldn't hurt him. He was my buddy. I would stop by to visit my folks and my buddy even after I left home to start my own adult life.

RivCor was about 15 years old and showing his age when my Dad called me to tell me he was making the trip to the vet. RivCor was having problems standing, he would list and fall over like he couldn't get his balance. My parents didn't want him to suffer. He had become frail in his old age. His once shiny coat was now coarse and dull with smatterings of grey hairs throughout it. I had told my Dad once that he wasn't to make that trip without me. I wanted to be there to say goodbye to the dog I had grown up with.

I sat in the back seat next to him, stroking his fur and telling him how much I loved him. By the time we got to the vet I was already crying. I couldn't bring myself to go in with them. I sat in the car and sobbed for my loss. The vet office was a small building, behind that was a large barn that contained the kennel and the incinerator where those less fortunate animals were cremated. I sat in the front seat of the car as the years of memories trickled down my face. Two people appeared at the back of the office building carrying a large trash bag of what had to be the remains of my beloved RivCor. Seeing this opened the floodgates of my sorrow. I sat, brokenhearted and filled with grief.

Dad entered the vehicle with a slight smile on his face. I looked at him in horror as he told me that the vet thought it was a treatable inner ear imbalance that elderly dogs get. They would keep him overnight and Dad would be able to pick him up in the morning. He hugged me when he saw the anguished relief on my face. I related what I had seen and he simply stated "No wonder you are such a mess".

RivCor did come home the next day and he did improve. Slowly, old age finally got the better of him though. He had to be carried up and down the stairs of their deck in order to do his business. He actually became quite senile and would be at the door 5 minutes after he had just gone out - forgetting he had just made that trip. There were times when he didn't make it to the door in time too. It was about a few months to a year later when my Dad called me and told me he had taken RivCor to the vet to end his suffering. He didn't want to put me through that again and I was thankful for that.

I grieved for the loss of a wonderful companion and to this day, I still do. I miss my buddy.

I used my cell phone to call my son in the car and give him the news. I think he ran back into the exam room. We took her home (much to her relief). Surgery is scheduled for Monday morning. I am hopeful that all goes well with our sassy little brat, Galileo and we will still have many years to be blessed by her presence.

I am working on figuring out how to post pictures and hopefully you will be able to see the little lady and RivCor very soon.

1 comment:

Magazine Man said...

Good stuff. Thanks for the update (your poor son!).

Would love to see pictures. Have you signed up for an account at I found it fairly easy to do. Email me if you need details.